Carlos Augusto Alves Santana (born July 20, 1947) in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico is a Mexican-American Grammy Award-winning musician and Latin-rock guitarist.
He became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his eponymous band Santana, which created a highly successful blend of salsa, rock, blues, and jazz fusion. Their sound featured his high-pitched, clean guitar lines set against Latin instrumentation such as timbales and congas. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades, and experienced a sudden resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Over his career he has sold an estimated 80 million albums worldwide.
Carlos Santana's father was a mariachi violinist and young Carlos learned the violin originally, but switched to the guitar when he was eight years old. After a family move to Tijuana, Santana began playing in clubs and bars; he remained in Tijuana when his family moved to San Francisco, California, but joined them at the age of thirteen.
At the end
of 1966, Tom Frazier (guitar) wanted to
form a new rock band. Frazier joined
Carlos Santana (guitar/vocals), Mike
Carabello (percussion), Rod Harper
(drums), Gus Rodrigues (bass guitar),
and Seattle native Gregg Rolie
(organ/vocals), to form the
Band. After a while the name
was shortened to just
Promoter Bill Graham saw them and the
band debuted in June 1968 at the
legendary Fillmore (later Fillmore
West), where many of the great San
Francisco bands began. Santana's
recording debut occurred on The Live
Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al
Kooper with Al Kooper and Mike
Soon signed to Columbia Records, the band released a largely instrumental, self-titled album, Santana in 1969. The group at this point consisting of Carlos Santana (guitar), Gregg Rolie (keyboards and vocals), David Brown (bass guitar), Michael Shrieve (drums), José "Chepito" Areas (percussion) and Michael Carabello (percussion).
On the tour to support the album, the band played at Woodstock Music and Art Festival. They were one of the surprises of the festival; their set was legendary, and later the exposure of their eight-minute instrumental "Soul Sacrifice" in the Woodstock film and soundtrack albums vastly increased Santana's popularity. Santana became a huge hit, reaching number four on the U.S. album chart, and the catchy single "Evil Ways" reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1970 the group reached its early commercial peak with their second album, Abraxas, which reached number one on the album charts and went on to sell over four million copies. The innovative Santana musical blend made a number-four hit out of English blues-rockers Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman", and a number-thirteen hit out of salsa champion Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va". Abraxas has since been placed on several "best albums of all time" lists. The classic Santana lineup of their first two albums was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
However, Woodstock and the success of the first two albums began to put pressure on the group, and highlighted the different musical directions that Rolie and Santana were starting to go in. Rolie was more influenced by the progressive rock movement; he wanted to highlight keyboards in the music, play long instrumentals, thematically link music across all of the songs on an album, and use characteristics of classical music. Carlos on the other hand wanted shorter songs and to bring forward the influence of the music of Mexico and his family heritage, with a heavier emphasis on percussion. The band had started to disintegrate.
A teenage San Francisco Bay Area guitar prodigy, Neal Schon, was asked to join the band in 1971; he was also asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominoes. Choosing Santana, he was brought into the studio to help clean up the "success mess", brought on by the band's new-found fame, and to help complete the third album, Santana 3. Schon, with a classical music background, was also more inclined to lean toward progressive rock (and at the same time he was helping Santana, he formed the band Azteca with Larry Graham, which eventually after further changes became Graham Central Station).
In any case, Santana 3 was another success, reaching number one on the album chart, selling two million copies, and spawning the hit singles "Everybody's Everything" and "No One to Depend On".
After Santana came back from a South American tour, which was cut short in Peru when all their gear was confiscated, they started working on a new, fourth, album, Caravanserai. During the studio sessions in December 1971, Rolie decided that it was time to go. He left and went home to Seattle, opening a restaurant with his father, and later became a founding member of Journey (which Schon would join as well).
Caravanserai did emerge
1972, it was with individual
credits on each track, and
marked the end of Santana as a
band with a fixed membership. It
also marked a strong change in
musical direction towards
jazz-rock fusion. As such it
earned considerable critical
Now using the name Devadip Carlos Santana, bestowed upon him by spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, Carlos Santana's next project was Love Devotion Surrender, a collaboration with jazz-rock guitarist and fellow Chinmoy disciple John McLaughlin. Backed by musicians from both Santana and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the album was a tribute to John Coltrane filtered through joint spiritual ecstacy; critical and popular reactions were mixed.
Carlos Santana used the Santana name and a series of changing musicians to continue to tour around the country, releasing several albums. Santana had five top-forty singles in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with "Winning" in 1981 and "Hold On" in 1982 both reaching the top twenty.
Many albums followed in the 1970s and 1980s, including collaborations with Willie Nelson, Herbie Hancock, Booker T. Jones, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1988 Santana won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Blues for Salvador. In 1990 he left Columbia Records after twenty-two years and signed with Polygram. In 1991, Santana made a guest appearance on Ottmar Liebert's album "Solo Para Ti", on the songs "Reaching out 2 U" and a cover of his own song, "Samba Pa Ti".
Santana's record sales in the 1990s had been very low, and towards the end of the decade he was without a contract. However Arista Records' Clive Davis, who had worked with Santana at Columbia, signed him and encouraged him to record a star-studded album with mostly younger artists. The result in 1999 was Supernatural, which included collaborations with Bobby Martin Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and others.
The first single was "Smooth", a dynamic salsa-ish stop-start number co-written and sung by Rob Thomas, and laced throughout with Carlos's guitar fills and runs. The track's energy was immediately apparent on radio, and was played on a wide variety of station formats. It spent twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100; a music video set on a hot barrio street was also very popular. Supernatural started selling in large numbers and reached number one on the album chart; suddenly Carlos Santana was the comeback story of the year. The follow-up single, "Maria Maria", arranged by Bobby Martin, also reached number one and spent ten weeks there. Supernatural eventually sold over 15 million copies in the US alone, making it Santana's biggest sales success by far.
Supernatural and the different tracks on it then won nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year for "Smooth", and Song of the Year for Thomas and Itaal Shur. Santana's acceptance speeches described his feelings about music's place in one's spiritual existence.
In 2002, Santana released Shaman, revisiting the Supernatural format of guest artists including P.O.D., Seal, and others. Although the album was not the runaway success its predecessor had been, it still produced two radio-friendly hits: the infectious "The Game of Love" featuring Michelle Branch reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent many weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart; then "Why Don't You and I" featuring either Chad Kroeger from Nickelback or Alex Band from The Calling (the original and a remix with a different singer were combined towards chart performance) also reached the Hot 100 top ten. "The Game of Love" went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
In 2005, Herbie Hancock approached Santana to play on, as well as to help in gathering other artists to record, an album similar to Supernatural. The resulting album, titled Possibilities, was released on August 30, 2005, featuring Carlos Santana and Angélique Kidjo on "Safiatou" (track 2).
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